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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

The Odyssey – A Review

Posted on August 29th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

The Odyssey

The Odyssey by Homer

Read by Anna/Central Teen Room

The word “odyssey” means a long series of wanderings or adventures, especially when filled with notable experiences, hardships, etc. The origin of this word stems from the epic poem Homer wrote depicting the long journey home of King Odysseus, known as The Odyssey. A whole twenty years prior to the start of the epic poem, Odysseus took soldiers to Troy in order to fight in the Trojan War. The trip should have been easy. He should have returned straight home to his wife and son on his native lands of Ithaca, but thanks to Zeus and the other Gods, the return journey was fraught with dangers and troubles. It took him ten years to get home, and lots of cunning to escape the fantastical creatures and Gods and Goddesses who wished to detain him. He went down into the darkness of the Underworld to talk with those who had died during the Trojan War. While he was known to be one of the best fighters in war, he fought a cyclops, not with swords, but with cunning words and actions. He told his men to lash him to the mast of the ship in order that he might hear the sirens call to him to turn the ship into dangerous waters bent on his destruction, but so that he would be able to do as they wished. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife was besieged with suitors who were eating her out of house and home, taking no cares in how many pigs and cows they slaughtered for their daily feasts and ignoring their own flocks. They each yearned for her to take another husband while it was assumed King Odysseus had been killed at war or on his return journey home. Queen Penelope held her ground and would neither wed another man nor send them away, leaving her son, Telemachus, to deal with them as best he could until his father could return home.

When I decided to reread this for my summer reading list this year, (I originally read it in 10th grade English, I think.) I decided to listen to the audio version for several reasons. Reason one being the long and unfamiliar names. When I read them in my head, I often change the pronunciation because I’m never sure what it should be. Having a narrator read to me, means the pronunciations will always remain the same. And reason two, the narrator was Sir Ian McKellen. Yep, that really awesome British actor who plays Gandalf in Lord of the Rings and other great, well known characters. What better guy could you get to read the story of Odysseus? I ask you, and I doubt you’ll come up with one. If you do, you’ll have to let me know who it is. I found his voice was perfect for telling an epic tale. While he didn’t read it as more modern narrators will, giving different voices and accents to different characters, it wasn’t hard to determine who was speaking at all. I highly recommend this just for Ian McKellen’s voice alone. If this is something you have to read for school, the audio book just might help get you through it.

On one hand we have this amazing audio book, but on the other we must consider the epic poem written by Homer, that is so much more than just a plain old poem. It literally is an epic fantasy. It includes many Gods and Goddesses, a cyclops (a giant with one large, round eye in the middle of his forehead), sirens (sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing),  a centaur (one of a race of monsters having the head, trunk, and arms of a man, and the body and legs of a horse), and many other characters Odysseus must fight against to win his freedom and be able to finish his journey home. While most of the story is told by different characters telling the story to others, it is certainly not boring by any sense of the word. Unless, of course, you aren’t into poetry, fantasy, adventures, and a little violence. (There are some pretty bloody battles that get depicted in this epic, especially toward the end.) If, however, these are things that do interest you, I urge you to check out this book, either in audio or in print. Minus any notes, appendixes, and introductions, the poem is roughly 400 pages and the audio book is around 13 hours. While that may seem like a long book, because it’s in poem format and because there are a lot of action scenes, the story seems to move at a quick pace for the most part. There’s a reason The Odyssey is continually reprinted and translated after it was initially written in either the late eighth or seventh century B.C. I really enjoyed rereading this, and getting myself reacquainted with the story years after my first reading, and I think you’ll like it too.

The Eyre Affair – A Review

Posted on July 15th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

Thursday Next is a Literary Detective. She tracks down stolen books. But this isn’t your garden variety detective novel. It’s easy to slip into a book and meet the characters. Likewise, it’s easy for characters to slip out of books and into our world. So, what happens when Jane Eyre gets kidnapped from her novel? Thursday Next is on the case and ready to get her back.

I started this book with high hopes. I love books. I love detective novels and mysteries. Putting them together, should then be a no-brainer for a fantastic book. Or a series. Unfortunately, right from page one, this book wasn’t doing anything for me. Jane Eyre doesn’t actually go missing until page 300 (out of 374). This baffled me, as the title suggests the first thing to happen on page one would be Jane going missing. A lot happens before she does go missing, though I felt like someone threw me in a bottle of soda and shook me up a little what with the time traveling, flash backs, visiting characters in books, book characters coming out of books, moving, meeting family, chasing a bad guy, getting shot, meeting old friends, meeting new coworkers… you get the idea. I also felt like I needed to research different events in history I was unfamiliar with, in order to understand whether the characters were talking about an altered event or the actual thing as it happened, and that threw me out of the story as well. If you’re a history buff, you shouldn’t have a problem with this aspect of it. That being said, I know people who have read, and enjoyed, the entire series. It seems to be one of those series you either like or you don’t. Someone said the reader probably needs to be in the right “head space” to read this and maybe that was part of my problem. I’m not really sure. All I know is that I just couldn’t get into it, and therefore, I ended up not enjoying it as much as I’d hoped to.

The Outside – A Review

Posted on May 27th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

The Outside

The Outside by Laura Bickle

Read by: Anna/Central Teen Room

The Outside is the sequel to The Hallowed Ones. This is a two book series about an Amish girl, Katie, who’s about to leave her community to spend a year outside, getting to know what the rest of the world is like before she makes the tough decision to be baptized into the Amish religion or to stay on the outside. However, Katie’s plans are abruptly changed when something horrible happens to the people outside her Amish community. Humans are being attacked by vampires and those that don’t die, are changed, forever seeking the blood of other humans, no matter what might get in their way. The gates to Katie’s community are closed. No one must get in and no one must leave. But what about the Amish who were caught out? How can they not let in friends and family when they come calling? And what about a stranger who arrives wounded? Katie isn’t sure what’s keeping the vampires out of her community, but she’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way, but she’s sure the stranger isn’t a vampire. He’s just a young man in great need of help. Her actions spark the elders in her community to cast her out, along with a rescued horse, the young man, Alex, and a mother from the outside who’d been caught in the community when the gates were closed.

Now, in the second book, Katie, Ginger, Alex, and the horse, now named Horace, are on their own, doing their best to survive in a vampire riddled world, where the darkness means certain death, and even holy ground isn’t always so holy anymore. Together, they fight the darkness, make new friends they never would have otherwise, and even lose one of their own. When Katie returns to her community, she finds that things have changed, and yet, not nearly as much as she has. Will she and her friends be able to find the answers and destroy the vampires? Or is this truly the end of the world as we know it?

Both of these books were super fantastic. Yes, there are some religious overtones, however, they aren’t there to hit the reader over the head with it. I’m not a fan of religious fiction, but I enjoyed learning about the ancient religions of the world as Alex tells the stories he learned in college. He and Katie have an ongoing debate as to what’s going on in the world, is it God’s wrath or a disease that’s wiping out humanity? It’s a healthy debate, as there might not be a true answer by the end of the book. I only had one problem with this book and that was that Alex’s original plans to find his family are aborted toward the end. I’m glad he sticks with Katie, but I’d been wondering about his family and whether or not they survived. I enjoyed the romance, and the fact that it wasn’t the usual romance seen in YA novels these days. Very well done. And last, but not least, this second book was freakin’ creepy! I’m not normally afraid of the dark, and I’ve read scary books before bed in the past. But this one, I was loathe to read right before turning out the light. Those vampires are like no vampires I’ve read about before! Certainly no Lestat, or Edward Cullen for sure!

I highly recommend this if you like creepy stories and a very light romance. If you’re not into religion, that’s okay too. You can still read it, and enjoy it. I know I did.

the hallowed ones

Forever – A Review

Posted on May 13th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Forever

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Read by:  Anna/Central Library

Forever is the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy and chronicles the lives of Sam, who can no longer shift into his wolf form, his girlfriend, Grace, who is now learning to live life part-time as a wolf, Isabel who’s still not entirely thrilled with events as they unfold, and Cole, who has taken this opportunity to search for a cure.

Isabel’s father, Tom Culpepper, has gone to those men high up in the government that he can trust to get a helicopter raid on the wolves. He wants them dead for killing his son and several other teens. He wants the wolves dead. Now. The four teens, Sam, Grace, Isabel, and Cole, struggle to figure out what their future will look like post high school graduation while at the same time feeling lost as to what to do about the helicopter raid that will wipe out their family and friends.  What’s a part-time werewolf to do?

This book was just as good as the others in the trilogy. Even toward the end, the characters stayed in character. Those that did change, did it gradually and over a long period of time, keeping things very realistic for a book about werewolves. The believability of these books was something I really enjoyed. Reading this, I can very well believe that werewolves actually do exist. Of course they do. These are teens who are thrust out into the world on their own, struggling to figure out where they belong, and how to survive in a cruel world. It’s not easy. Yes, these teens do have parents who are also struggling with their own lives, but even so, the teens know they’re on their own. They can’t go to their parents for help because their parents wouldn’t understand. If you’ve read the other two books, you’ll know exactly why Sam doesn’t like trusting outsiders with the information that they’re not entirely human. Help does come in the most unlikely form, and when it does, it doesn’t take over the story. This new person doesn’t have all the magical answers, but helps them the best way possible. Nothing is perfect. And the romance between Sam and Grace, once again, was believable and sweet; a quiet assuredness that they’d found The One . It was great to see that in a young couple. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Isabel and Cole. They don’t really get along. And yet, they also get along extremely well at the same time because they’re a lot alike. It was good to see them in contrast to Grace and Sam. They were a good balance to the relationship spectrum.

In short, I loved this series because I love werewolves, I loved the relationships here, and I loved just how realistic these books were.

Incarceron – A Review

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by Anna in Books, Reviews - Staff

Incarceron

Incarceron by: Catherine Fisher

Read by: Anna/Copley Teen Room

Incarceron is the book our TBOM group decided to read for March and April. Our final discussion of the book will be today, April 24th at 3pm in the Central Teen Room.

Incarceron is a prison. It is a prison that speaks for itself, feeds its prisoners, takes over the dead bodies, grows new ones, and ensures no one escapes, all from within. There is a Warden, but even he, doesn’t have complete control over the prison. Once, there was a prince, Giles. When he was only a child he was killed to allow his half brother to take the throne. And yet… inside Incarceron there is a boy who bears a birthmark that is a match to the one the prince had. This boy, Finn, is the son of Incarceron. He was born there, created by the prison three years ago. And yet… he remembers a birthday cake, the candles, a pretty girl he was set to marry some day. Are they one and the same? Outside, Claudia, the daughter of the Warden, is set to marry Giles’ horrible half brother and in the eventual death of the queen, take over. But things are not as they seem. Lies and assassination plots abound, and one can’t be sure who to trust any more. It is Finn’s  goal to escape the prison and find out just who he really is. But no one escapes Incarceron. It is Claudia’s goal to free Finn and his friends, to restore him as prince and free the world from the tyrant of a Queen, but no one knows where Incarceron is located or how to get to it.

When I first started reading this book I will admit I was very confused about what was going on inside the prison. It’s not a prison like anyone has ever heard of. There’s a whole world inside the prison, there’s weather, hills, rocks, barren land, whole cities with guards and rock walls surrounding them, forests, roving bands of criminals, mothers, babies, moving vehicles, animals, fake rats who’s duty is to clean up the dead bodies and garbage, you name it, it’s in Incarceron. Yes, weapons are there too. I didn’t understand this at first, and I wish I’d gotten a better handle on it right from the start. And yet, I will also admit that the opening scene is very riveting. It throws you in and scares you half to death. And so I was confused about how the prison worked at first. But the more time I spent there, the more it began to make sense and the more I wanted to know what was going to happen. Right up until the very end. There is a sequel entitled Sapphique, so there are a few things left unanswered. And while I’m anxious to read the next book, I’m also thinking if this one was just a little bit longer, it could have been a standalone novel. But, not having read Sapphique, I could be entirely wrong. We’ll have to see.

While I was expecting a bit of romance to color the plot, it doesn’t, and that was a relief. Too many YA novels rely on the standard romance trope these days that they ruin what could have been a good story. Not every novel needs to have a romance and I’m glad this one allows the actual story to shine. I like Claudia. She’s a tough girl who knows what she wants and is determined to get it. And Finn, who sometimes seems weak, rises to do what’s right when others wouldn’t. The Warden always leaves you with questions as to his true loyalties, making him an intriguing character. Though the Queen and her son, Jasper, do seem a little flat, the other characters quickly make up for it.

Yes, I do recommend this book. My only issue was in the beginning, as I said. Once I understood the world building, I could see just how fantastic and unique it really was, inside the prison and out. Then I was able to really enjoy this page-turner. Read it if you enjoy fantasy, urban fantasy, and classic fantasy.